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A closer look at the loneliest play in basketball

Mizzou News for Friday, January 24

What’s in a record? A closer look at the loneliest play in basketball

That’s what Brian Napier tried to do in his most recent hoops piece in the Columbia Missourian, looking at Missouri’s run to beat this record, and evaluating just how tough it is to do. It really is a well done piece, and it is quite fascinating to read.

While on the surface, a free throw seems so easy, right? It’s unguarded, there’s not a big body in your face trying to block your shot, and it’s just you and the ball... Seems simple enough, but in actuality, as Napier said in his piece, “Few situations in sports are as anxiety-provoking, unnerving and intimidating as the basketball free throw.” Why?

From the article:

Basketball is a fast-paced game by nature. Foul shots pause that speediness and instantly thrust a player, ready or not, into the spotlight. Add in external factors — screaming fans, nervousness, frustration, etc., to name a few — and one slip of the hand, one blip in the routine or one distraction can throw the shooter out of whack.

Fans, the players, the SEC, everyone (well, it seems like everyone), is aware that things are not going well for the Tigers so far this season. They are on a three-game losing streak, and it seems the only shots they CAN hit with any consistency is free throws. That’s what makes this even more of a remarkable achievement, Napier said. The Tigers have shown that they can remain calm, cool, and collected when alone at the line with everyone watching. (next step would be extending that OUTSIDE the line, of course)

Here’s a breakdown of the players contributing to the streak:

Dru Smith (16 for 16) carried the heaviest bulk of the load. Then— Mitchell Smith (9 for 9), Xavier Pinson (9 for 9), Torrence Watson (7 for 7), Mark Smith (4 for 4), Reed Nikko (4 for 4), Tray Jackson (2 for 2), Javon Pickett (2 for 2) and Kobe Brown (1 for 1).

Since New Year’s Day, the Tigers rank ninth nationally in FT shooting percentage (82%) and are the best foul-shooting team in the SEC since 2020 began as well. Overall this season, the Tigers rank 16th nationally in FT shooting%.

What exactly contributes to free throw success? Napier detailed a bunch of research in sports psychology that (again), I highly recommend checking out, and I will have a standalone post later about this, along with some things I learned as a result of my own deep (deeeep) dive. (!!!!)

So next time you’re watching the Tigers and cursing Mitchell Smith for missing a crucial free throw that would tie a game (that never should have been that close), keep this in mind. It’s lonely out there. And what the Tigers did, breaking that NCAA record of 54 consecutive made free throws, is not an easy task. There’s a reason that Wake Forest’s record stood for as long as it did.

To the links!

Yesterday at Rock M

I’ve got your back, Zo.

More Links:


  • And the man in charge himself put out this “bat signal”, as Sam so eloquently called it. This was obviously a reference to what became of Key’s commitment. I like it.
  • 2021 East St. Louis QB Tyler Macon will be taking an unofficial visit this weekend.
  • Okay, so this is REALLLLLLLY COOL. So glad Nick Bolton is a Tiger!


Based on some of the metrics - and this is hard to believe - you can make a case this is the best defensive team Bob Huggins’ has ever coached. You’re talking about a deserving Hall of Fame coach whose built his career on lockdown defenses - and this could be his best defensive team. Just a few minutes ago on the SEC conference call, John Calipari said he recently told Huggins that this West Virginia team might be good enough to win it all this year.

  • Check out Friend of the Dive Cuts pod, Blake Lovell’s breakdown of net rankings for the SEC-Big XII Challenge for further insight into what could be a rough one.
  • Love to see it, DRU! You know what we’d also like to see though? Less turnovers, perhaps, and some wins for the black & gold.
  • Freshmen Aijha Blackwell and Hayley Frank continue to impress, and could be the best freshmen duo in Mizzou women’s hoops history.

Various Mizzou Sports / Other Mizzou News

Mizzou in the Pros/Former Mizzou Sports figures News

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